University of Helsinki and St Petersburg State University collaborate in developing new methods of eye treatment
Professor Arto Urtti from the University of Helsinki wants to facilitate the transport of drugs into the posterior areas of the eye by combining synthetic and biological materials and cells. Russian cooperation provided him with the opportunity of a researcher exchange between St Petersburg and Helsinki.

Diseases of the retina are rapidly becoming more common. Good medication is necessary, but the challenge is delivering it to the posterior part of the eye. Thus far, the inefficiency of precision transport methods has also hindered drug discovery.

Professor Arto Urtti from the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy has received a three-year grant to establish a new research group at St Petersburg State University. The roughly €1.5 million grant will be allocated to research seeking new materials to enhance the transport of drug molecules to the back of the eye.

“Our goal is to help drugs penetrate the cells and reach the retina and to prolong the duration of the drugs’ effect through the latest pharmaceutical technology. We are using synthetic and biological materials as well as cells to reach our objective.”

The group cooperates closely with both Professor Urtti’s research group in Helsinki and Professor Tatiana Tennikova’s team in St Petersburg. The cooperation also means that researchers from St Petersburg will come to conduct biological experiments in Helsinki, while Finnish researchers will be able to work in St Petersburg.

Arto Urtti will spend the entire three-year term working part-time in St Petersburg as the head of the project, but he doesn’t think the long commute will be a problem.

“The trip to St Petersburg isn’t that long – it’s just three hours by train,” says Urtti, who has previously travelled the four-hour trip between Helsinki and Kuopio for work.